Friday, November 27, 2020

Adding Plants In Your House

COVID-19 has kept a lot of us indoors. Because of this, there has been a growing interest in finding ways to bring plants inside. Plants give us a sense of calm. They rejuvenate us and lift our spirits. Here are some ideas for how you might bring plants into your space.

1. Display plants on picture shelves. Find different types—grassy ones, cascading vines, ones with interesting leaves— to create a pleasing visual effect. Select containers that complement each other.

2. Make a terrarium. This is a low-maintenance option for people who don't feel they have a green thumb. You can make them yourself. There are plenty of online instructions on how to do this, or you can buy one. 

3. Grow herbs indoors. If you have some space in the kitchen, you can grow them on your windowsill. If you want to get fancy, you can buy indoor herb garden kits. It's always nice to have fresh cooking herbs within easy reach.

4.  If you don't have a lot of space, consider hanging planters. 

 5. Put humidity-loving plants in the bathroom.

These are just a few ideas. With a little creativity, you can have a peaceful oasis right in your own home. 

Do you have live plants in your home? If so, where do you have them? 

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Jardin des Tuileries


The Jardin des Tuileries, located in Paris, France, is one of the most visited gardens in Paris, due to its location between the Louvre and the Place de la Concorde.  It was created by Catherine de Medicis in 1564 and was opened to the public in 1667.

It is known for its ornamental ponds, terraces, and collection of bronze figures by Aristide Maillol.  In addition to the beautiful perennial flowers, the garden is home to 20 species of trees, including Mulberry and Judas trees.

The garden is open daily in April - August from 7:00 AM to 9:00 PM, and in September  - March from 7:30 AM to 7:30 PM.  Admission is free.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Katsura Imperial Villa Garden


Today's garden is one from Japan.  It's the Katsura Imperial Villa in western Kyoto, Japan.  Completed in 1645, it is the residence of the Katsura family, who are members of Japan's Imperial Family.

Seeing this place is not easy.  You must make reservations for a limited number of tours that are given by the Imperial Household Agency.  The tours last about one hour and are in Japanese.  You don't speak Japanese?  That's okay.  You can get an English audio guide.  They are very strict about following the rules - you must stay with the group on the path, and you are only allowed to take pictures at designated areas.

That said, the garden is really lovely.  Visitors will see a pond, bamboo, four tea houses, and a lovely arched wooden bridge called a "Dobashi."

The agency is open Monday - Friday from 8:45 - 12:00  and 1:00- 5:00 PM.  Tours are held during these times, but you may be able to get a Saturday tour.  No tours are ever given on Sunday, and I would venture to guess that no tours are being held during the COVID pandemic.

Before I go, I would like to let you know about the release of my latest book, Bubba and Squirt's Mayan Adventure.  I'm on tour with MC Tours for the month of September and October. If you would like to follow along and have a chance to win an autographed copy, you can go here.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Garden of Cosmic Speculation and Latin Flavors Blog Hop Sign Up


Don't you just love the name of this garden?  This is definitely a one-of-a-kind garden.  I've never seen anything else like it in all of my travels.  The Garden of Cosmic Speculation is located in Dumfries, Scotland.  It covers thirty acres and was built in 1989 by Charles Jencks, an internationally acclaimed architectural critic and designer.  The garden is actually his own private garden.  It is open to the public only once a year (usually in May).  If you want to see this place, you'll have to do a little planning (and get there really early when it does open, because the traffic jams are ridiculous).

The garden was designed to provide thought (speculation) about the nature of things.  It was inspired by science and mathematics, with themes like Black Holes, Fractals, and DNA helixes.
Plants are not the big feature here.  There are a couple of man-made dragon lakes. Mostly what you'll see are a lot of steel structures and symmetry.  The garden begins at the base of steps leading down from the original eighteenth-century manor house.  You'll see a Sense of Touch garden, where a metal hand waves back and forth, beckoning visitors to come to check it out.  You'll see a steel DNA helix and a Heaven-Hell primeval wilderness garden with a beautiful red arched bridge

 The snail mound allows you to explore the Fibonacci Sequence of numbers that make up the shell.

Before I go, I'd like to tell you about the Latin Flavors Blog Hop I'm hosting:

When:  September 14-18
Where:  Your Blog

On September 15th, my new book, Bubba and Squirt's Mayan Adventure, will be released. To help get the word out, I'm having a blog hop. It's called, "Latin Flavors."

In the book, Bubba and Squirt try a couple of Latin dishes. I thought it might be fun to share recipes of food from Mexico and Central America.

Here's what participants will do:

1. Share a favorite "Latin Flavor" recipe
2. Include information about my book in the post. I will provide all of that and send it to you a week before the blog hop.

If you'd like to participate, please sign up on the Linky List.

Thank you!

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Villa d'Esta

If you like fountains, the gardens at the Villa d'Este, in Tivoli, Italy, are a must-see.  The gardens are on the grounds of the former residence of Cardinal Ippolito d'Este.  They were built in 1572.  Today, this garden is part of the UNESCO world heritage list.

The garden is organized in terraces and steps.  Visitors will see numerous fountains, grottos, and ponds.  The Neptune fountain, pictured at the top, is the largest and most spectacular fountain.  There's also an organ fountain, which, yes, plays organ music with the sounds of the falling water.  If you'd like to hear it, the first playing is at 10:30 every day, and then it occurs every two hours.

The garden is open daily from 8:30 AM to 6:30 PM.  Admission is 10 euros for adults.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Nongnooch Tropical Botanical Garden

 Nongnooch Tropical Botanical Garden is located in Pattaya, Thailand.  It boasts the world's largest palm collection and has the largest variety of orchids in Thailand.


The history of the garden is interesting.  In 1954, Mr. Pisit and Mrs. Nongnooch Tansacha bought about 600 acres, originally thinking that it would be a fruit plantation.  But then Mrs. Nongnooch went on vacation.  She saw many beautiful gardens around the world and was inspired to create her own.  She decided to make it a tropical garden of ornamental flowers and plants.  The garden was opened to the public in 1980.

 Today, there are plenty of trails, tours, and animal shows to entertain visitors.  One of the most popular shows is the elephant show.  Kids really enjoy this!

  The gardens are open daily from 8 AM - 6 PM.  Admission is $15.00 (500 THB).

And before I go, I want to let you know that my publisher has a few extra review copies of Bubba and Squirt's Mayan Adventure.  If you would like a chance to win one, please participate in the Rafflecopter. Open to US residents only. Click this link:

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Shenyang Botanical Garden

  Shenyang Botanical Garden, located in Shenyang City, China, covers 467 acres and contains more than 1,000 species of flowers, trees, and shrubs. 

 A walk through the garden reveals several ponds, waterfalls, and ornate bridges.  There are 20 gardens in all, including an azalea garden, peony garden, lilac garden, and rose garden.

Shenyang Botanical Garden is open daily from 8 AM to 5 PM.  The admission is 20 CNY.

Friday, June 5, 2020

Powis Castle Gardens

Powis Castle Gardens, located in Welshpool, Wales is located on the grounds of the residence of the Earl of Powis.  The castle itself was founded in the early 13th century by Welsh princes. The formal, baroque gardens were designed in the 1670s.

Visitors will see Italian style terraces, statues, an orangery, and even an aviary.  Each terrace has a different theme.  One has a Mediterranean theme.  Another is planted with rhododendrons and ferns.  Another has herbs.  There is also a lower formal garden that has unusual pyramid-shaped apple trees, roses, delphiniums, phlox, and hollyhocks.

The gardens are beautiful year-round, but I think the best time to visit is in the spring when the tulips, hyacinths, and rhododendrons are in bloom.  The gardens are open daily April to September from 12:00 PM to 5:00 PM, and March, October-December from 12:00 PM to 4:00 PM.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Exbury Gardens

The Exbury Gardens, located in Hampshire, England, are a real treat for the eyes!  In fact, in December of 2011, they were awarded the Hudson's Heritage UK "Best Garden" award.

The gardens contain over 200 acres of rhododendrons, azaleas, and a plethora of rare trees and shrubs.  They are the inspiration of Lionel Nathan de Rothschild who passed away in 2009.  Today, his grandchildren carry on the legacy.

 There are several ways to view the gardens. You can walk on the numerous trails, you can ride a chauffer-driven buggy, or you can do my favorite thing:  ride a miniature steam locomotive through the gardens.

The train will pass through the Summer Lane garden.  From there, you'll catch glimpses of the rock garden, followed by the wildlife pond.  Next, you'll pass the plant nursery and exotic fruit patch.  Then you'll pass by the sunflower field, which if you visit in the summer, is just amazing!  Finally, you'll loop around the oldest tree in the garden:  the Domesday Yew.  The train ride takes about 20 minutes.


The gardens are open daily from March to early November.  Admission for adults is 14 British pounds and 4 British pounds for children.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Garden at the Musee Rodin

The Garden at the Musee Rodin is located in Paris, France at the Rodin Museum, which features works by French sculptor, Auguste Rodin.  The garden covers about 9 acres and contains a rose garden, an ornamental garden, a rock garden known as the "Garden of Orpheus," and a water garden known as the "Garden of Springs."

Visitors can stroll under chestnut and linden trees, follow footpaths through hydrangeas and bamboo in the Garden of Springs, and enjoy peonies and ferns in the Garden of Orpheus.  Throughout the garden, many of Rodin's sculptures can be seen.  (Although I've never understood why The Gates of Hell sculpture is located behind the rose garden!)

 The garden is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10:00 AM to 5:45 PM.  Admission for the garden alone is 1 euro.  If you'd like to see the museum, admission is 9 euros.

One more thing:  My publisher is giving away 5 free copies of my upcoming book, Bubba and Squirt's Mayan Adventure. If you live in the United States, and you'd like to win a copy, please enter your information in the Rafflecopter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, April 13, 2020

The Jimmy Carter Center Gardens

The Jimmy Carter Center Gardens, located in Atlanta, Georgia, is a thirty-seven-acre wooded park that contains a formal garden, wildflower meadow, cherry orchard, Japanese garden, a couple of lakes, and waterfalls.  The rose garden contains about 400 plants with 80 different varieties.

Of course, the gardens aren't the only thing to see here.  The Jimmy Carter Library and Museum is here, which features an exact replica of the Oval Office and the Nobel Prize awarded to Jimmy Carter.

The gardens are open Monday through Saturday from 9:00 -4:45 and Sunday from 12:00 - 4:45.  Admission is $8.00 for adults.

I hope you are all staying safe and healthy during this COVI-19 pandemic! I've had to do a lot of things virtually, including recording music for online church services. Here's a video I made of how I do that. Thought you might find it interesting.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Barnsley Gardens

Barnsley Gardens, located in Adairsville, Georgia, are 160-year-old gardens that feature over 200 varieties of heirloom roses.  It's a romantic getaway that's a setting for many weddings. In fact, I have personally played for many weddings here.

The original estate was a manor called Woodlands.  Construction began in 1840 by Godfrey Barnsley as a gift for his wife, Julie.  Unfortunately, Julie never lived to see its completion. She died in 1845 of a lung ailment.  After her death, construction ceased.  It is said that Julie's spirit appeared to Godfrey the following year, urging him to finish the estate for their children and future generations.

In 1991, Barnsley Gardens was opened to the public as a historical garden and museum.  Today it's a resort destination with luxurious cottages, a golf course, spa, hunting, fishing, hiking, and numerous other activities.

Admission to see the gardens is $10.00 for adults and $5.00 for children.

And now something a little different to entertain you. Here's a video of a recent performance I did with the Gwinnett Symphony Orchestra. I am performing the Double Concerto for Viola and Clarinet by Bruch. The clarinetist is my friend, Diane Hargreaves. Hope you enjoy it. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Callaway Gardens

Callaway Gardens, located in Pine Mountain, Georgia, covers 6,500 acres.  It was begun in 1952 by Cason and Virginia Callaway to protect native azalea plants.  Today there are a multitude of attractions, including an Overlook Garden, Vegetable Garden, Butterfly Center, Horticultural Center, and Pioneer Log Cabin.

The property is also the site of Robin Lake Beach (the world's largest man-made white sand beach) and Iceberg Island Floating Water Playground.  Between the gardens, hiking trails, and water features, it's definitely a place where you can spend an entire day.

The gardens are open daily from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM.  Admission is $13.00 per adult and $6.50 per child. 

Before I go, I'd like to let you know that I'm a guest on the IWSG Anthology blog talking about my short story, Ghosts of Pompeii which will be part of the Voyagers anthology coming out in May. To read the interview, go here.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Bellingrath Gardens

Bellingrath Gardens is a 65-acre garden and mansion located in Theodore, Alabama, a town on the outskirts of Mobile, Alabama.  They were first opened to the public in 1932.  The gardens include an Oriental garden, Mermaid pool, bridal garden, and a river pavilion where guests can take a river cruise down the Fowl River on a boat called the Southern Belle.  Beautiful flowerbeds adorn the gardens throughout the year. These include azaleas, roses, tulips, snapdragons, begonias, and marigolds.

If you happen to visit around Christmas, be sure to see the phenomenal display of over three million lights, known as the Magic Christmas in Lights.  It truly is magical!

The gardens are open daily from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM.  During the Christmas light show, they're open until 9:00 PM.  Admission for the gardens, home, and cruise tour is $29.00 for adults at $19.00 for children.  Gardens only are $12.50 for adults and $7.00 for children.